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The Stories We Tell

It’s uncanny, really. Storytelling has become a marketing buzzword to the point of cliche. Yet, the power of actual stories capturing the human imagination is so compelling, the very concept remains undiluted.

We write our own history with the things we say out loud and to ourselves. As the saying goes, it’s often a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It matters which stories we tell. And to whom we tell them. The negative stories we tell ourselves are arguably harmful enough as it is, because we start to believe them.

One of the worst things about telling a story—saying it out loud—is that it’s all the more likely to become true. Once you tell someone, “After I paid for his school, he broke up with me,” it becomes a story that someone else can also tell. It’s repeatable. You never know where it will go. The truth is more likely a mix of this story and others like, “Well, yes, I was happy to help out with his tuition when I thought we were a couple, and that he would do the same for me.” As stories get retold, whether fully truth or not, we sit at the edge of our seats to listen and relate to the story being told.

That same idea also happens to be one of the best things about telling a story. They’re sticky. Below is the 1985 ad campaign by legendary art director George Lois which made Tommy Hilfiger a household name. It’s the story that quite literally put him on America’s collective radar. Was the story true? Or soon to be true? You better believe Hilfiger was up and coming regardless of what the ad said. And, of course, the pressure was on to deliver on this boldly proclaimed promise, which Hilfiger also did, becoming one of the great American designers for men.

Amy Cuddy outlines this principle in her groundbreaking research and book, Presence. “Your boldest self emerges through the experience of having full access to your values, traits, and strengths and knowing that you can autonomously and sincerely express them through your actions and interactions. That is what it means to believe your own story.”

You see, when you identify your core values—those things inherently important to you as an individual, and you stick to them, using them as a guidepost for decision-making, you become grounded in your own story. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand.

Three Tips to Tell Your Story and Get More Clients.

1. Take control of how you tell your story. Start by identifying your core values. You can download a worksheet here. It's the one I use with all of my clients.

2. Interview yourself. Or have someone else interview you on what those values mean and how they apply to your business.

3. Start crafting—and using—your story to connect with your customers and prospects on a meaningful level. Nothing happens until you make that meaningful connection.

Core Values are the gateway drug to greatness. It’s how I work with 99% of my clients and the results are never short of revealing.

You’re an original. Now act like one.

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